With almost 80 million millennials entering the workforce, the group is projected to account for 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. As their baby boomer parents retire, millennials are beginning to move up the executive ladder and fill influential seats within companies.
But as millennials mature and rise through the ranks, they can’t seem to shake the bad rep they’ve gotten over the years. Joel Stein called millennials the “me me me generation” in his Time Magazine article earlier this year, and the general consensus seems to be that millennials are self-obsessed, have short attention spans, and are entitled.
At SAS’ Premier Business Leadership Series conference this week, I had the opportunity to attend a keynote presentation delivered by Jason Dorsey, chief strategy officer at the Center for Generational Kinetics and “Gen Y guy.”
Though Dorsey doesn’t refute the possibility that some (or perhaps even many) millennials do act entitled, he says that the group actually most offended by millennials acting entitled are not boomers or Gen X, but other millennials who do not act entitled.
Dorsey also explains that what some people see as entitled might not necessarily be that at all. Instead, Dorsey claims, the interpretation of the language of business has changed, and millennials interpret it differently than their parents once did.
“For example, one generation says, ‘Show up on time,’ and to them, this means arriving to work 15 minutes early. A millennial won’t necessarily arrive at the same conclusion,” Dorsey explained.
A millennial myself, I’m torn on how I feel about Dorsey’s take on our generation. While I tend to believe that arriving on time means arriving slightly early, it’s hard for me to judge the mentality holistically because I was raised in a household where getting 100% on a test usually begged the question: “Wasn’t there an extra credit question?”
Still, I do believe that millennials have different expectations than our older counterparts, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When I send an email during the course of a work day, for example, I typically expect a response within an hour or so. With that said, I try to respond to emails almost immediately on my end as well. Dorsey called our generation “tech-dependent,” and I agree, but I think that that assessment goes further than our need to constantly upload our “self-centered selfies on Instagram,” to quote a conference attendee I overheard. Instead, I think our tech-dependence lies in that we expect technology to do a lot of the heavy lifting for us when it comes to doing work, which, I think, only increases productivity.
While previous generations scoff at millennials who prefer to conduct meetings over Skype rather than face-to-face, millennials have a hard time understanding the point of spending time and money on travel for a get-together that could have taken place online. In my naïve, millennial opinion, my generation craves convenience and efficiency, and those that want to do business with millennials need to grasp that.
Mark Wilson, CEO and founder TermSync, agrees. TermSync is a cloud-based customer portal—a company that hosts online customer self-service for brands. The portals are convenient for quickly handling day-to-day business issues that do not warrant in-depth support—such as reordering a product from a supplier.
Despite online customer self service portals being adopted across B2C industries, Wilson explains, this isn’t necessarily the case when it comes to the B2B marketplace, and millennials are not too pleased.
In fact, according to TermSync’s recent survey of B2B businesses, 44 percent do not use any type of online customer portal to handle customer questions, payments and demands.
“This disconnect isn’t about millennials being lazy. Placing a phone call to a supplier isn’t that much more complicated than just going through a portal. But, efficiency is key for millennials. They don’t believe in wasting time doing something that can be done more efficiently,” he says. “Using a portal is faster and it’s easier—that’s why it makes more sense.”
So are millennials entitled or enlightened when it comes to doing business?
Either way, it’s time companies start embracing the technology millennials have come to expect from businesses with which they work and interact. “If they don’t, their customers will just find another vendor who does,” Wilson said.